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On his eighth studio album, Goin' Home, Kenny Wayne Shepherd takes listeners on a retrospective journey of some of the songs and artists who first ignited his love of the blues. The award-winning guitarist hadn't originally planned on tackling blues classics on his new disc, but a recent visit to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, cemented his direction.
"Being back in Shreveport, I started reflecting on my life and career," Shepherd says. "I had these vivid memories of playing guitar in the living room of my house and listening to this music. I went full circle. So I thought, ‘The best place for me to do this record would be where it all began for me.’”
He didn't have too far to go. Blade Studios, built by and operated by longtime friend Brady Blade – a respected drummer and producer who has worked with Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Dave Matthews, among others – had become Shreveport's first state-of-the-art recording facility. Shepherd and his band (singer Noah Hunt, ex-Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton, former Firm bassist Tony Franklin and keyboardist Riley Osbourn) parked their tour bus outside the studio and, during an 11-day stay, laid down 22 tracks.
“I wanted to stay true to the spirit of the original recordings," Shepherd explains, "so we recorded live and did a minimal amount of overdubs. We set up in the same room together, with drums bleeding into vocal mics, and guitar amps bleeding into drum mics. When you’re in that kind of situation, you have to try to get it right the first time, and that was a lot of fun, actually."
Overdubs were key when it came time to the album's guest stars, and Goin' Home boasts a mind-boggling collection of music greats: Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh, Warren Haynes, Keb' Mo', Robert Randolph, Fabulous Thunderbirds frontman Kim Wilson and the Rebirth Brass Band. "As you can imagine, it’s not easy getting so many fantastically talented people down to Shreveport during a short stay," Shepherd says. "They’re all really busy traveling and doing what they’re doing. So the easiest thing was to send the music to them to put their parts on.”
Starr, whom Shepherd has counted as a friend for the past 11 years, plays drums on the track Cut You Loose. "I was actually with Ringo in his home studio when he did his overdubs," says Shepherd. "What can I say about him? He’s a ridiculously talented drummer and about as legendary as you can get. To have him on my record is a huge honor."
He adds, "I'm thankful for everybody who took the time to play on the record. It was a great experience to share this music with everybody, and I'm really looking forward for my fans to hear what we did. These are songs that helped shape who I am. This is a pretty special album to me."
On the following pages, Shepherd runs down Goin' Home track-by-track. The album is now available in Europe - click here for order links. Goin' Home will be released in the US on May 19. You can pre-order the album at iTunes and Amazon.